Monday, December 11, 2017

Do Not Follow All This Advice!

Horticulture Hotline 12/11/17
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

A Few Ways To Kill A Tree

Since we are in the planting season for trees and shrubs in the Lowcountry, here are a few things not to do!

Buy a tree on sale that has been starved for water, food, and is pot-bound.  The tree will probably have a weak structure; this is why no one has purchased it.  Get that real tall 3-gallon plant that should be in a 15-gallon pot.  To be sure you are buying a root bound plant; make sure there are big roots coming out of the holes in the bottom of the pot.

Set the tree in the back of a pickup truck or on the roof of your car with no protective covering for the foliage.  Drive 70 mph home with the wind battering the tree (this is good practice for hurricane season), or decide to do other errands while it sits in your truck all day.  When you get home, the tree will be defoliated and further dried out.

After you have cut away the plastic container, be sure you have nice circling, woody roots.  Dig that million dollar hole.  Go 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide and amend with fresh cow manure from your friend’s farm and leaves you picked up in plastic bags from around your neighborhood.  Once this organic stuff begins to decompose, it will rob your tree of more nutrients and settle.  Settling is a guarantee that your plant will be planted below existing grade, starving it for oxygen.

Plant your new specimen tree near your house, between the driveway and the sidewalk that leads to your front door so it will be easy to keep an eye on it.  This way when it gets older, it can rub up and damage your roof and the roots can damage your sidewalk, driveway and foundation of your home. 

Planting near a down spot is nice for the free water off of your roof.  During rainy seasons, this will also help the tree drown. 

When you plant the tree, make sure the soil goes over the root ball so the tree looks like a telephone pole or pencil coming straight out of the ground.  Make sure that the flare of the tree is below grade.

When you get the tree in the hole, you need to stake it.  The old garden hose cut up with wire run through it is still a popular way to kill a tree.  Stake it in three directions tightly so that the tree doesn’t sway in the wind, thus guaranteeing that the tree will not become strong enough to support itself.  Mark your calendar three years from the day you staked it.  If the tree hasn’t already died, the guide wires from the stakes should have girdled it by now.  If you want to make sure you kill the tree, put tree wrap on it as well.  This wrap will constrict trunk growth and hold moisture rotting the bark.  This soft bark makes a good place for insects to enter the tree and fungus to rot the tree. 

On the serious side, large patch / brown patch fungus exploded over the last week of foggy, misty, or rainy days. If it is 100 % humidity, you can adjust your irrigation accordingly. There is a yard I see all the time that I have never seen large patch / brown patch in over 40 years. A new person purchased the house and put irrigation in and now the front yard is covered in disease.

Everyone has already done a soil test – right?, So you know what your yard needs to be it’s healthiest this year.  Using horticultural oil or Neem oil to smother over-wintering insects is an environmentally friendly way to control these pests. Neem oil will help with certain fungus as well. 

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.